The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Hollywood celebs flee hotel fire
Several A-list celebs, including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Jim Carrey, had to be evacuated from a London hotel Thursday after a fire broke out. The blaze started in the kitchen of the lavish Claridges Hotel, where guests were evacuated as a precaution but no injuries were reported. Pitt and Damon had to cancel a press conference yesterday promoting their caper-sequel Ocean's Twelve. Funnyman Carrey, who is in London to promote his latest movie, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, joked to the press about the irony of the situation. "The movie's all about fire and disaster and so I get up for the (press) junket today and suddenly my house is burning down, and I'm on the balcony like a damsel screaming with a very high pitched voice," Carrey told Reuters Television. "No one rescued me, no one came. I had to find my own way out!" In Lemony Snicket, Carrey plays the ominous Count Olaf, who takes charge of three children whose parents are killed in a house fire.
Jackson opens the gates to Neverland
Michael Jackson, who is scheduled to stand trial January 31 on a 10-count indictment of child molestation, has invited a group of people Friday to visit his Neverland Valley Ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., Reuters reports. Jackson's spokeswoman Raymone Bain declined to identify the group but said a member of his entourage had incorrectly described the event as a holiday party for groups of children. Jackson has frequently invited groups--and children--to Neverland, the place prosecutors allege Jackson plied a boy with alcohol, engaged in "lewd acts" with him, then conspired with his staff to cover up his misdeeds. The singer said last year he no longer considers Neverland his home after police raided the place for evidence against him.
Oscars ceremony pushed back a week
The 2006 Academy Awards ceremony will be held Sunday, Mar. 5--a week later than the calendar schedule in 2004 and 2005, Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, announced Thursday. According to Pierson, the date change was necessary in order to avoid a conflict with the closing ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to fall on the Academy's initial date of Sunday, Feb. 26. "It didn't seem fair to make viewers have to choose between these two special events," Pierson said in a statement. The late-February broadcasts will resume in 2007. The 2006 and 2007 broadcasts, as well as the upcoming 2005 ceremony on Feb. 27, will be telecast live on ABC.
Trump chooses his "apprentice"
Donald Trump hired a second apprentice Thursday, picking bland West Point graduate and software executive Kelly Perdew over go-getting Harvard Law School graduate and San Francisco attorney Jennifer Massey. In a live The Apprentice telecast from Lincoln Center in New York, Perdew accepted Trump's six-figure salary job supervising the sprawling Trump Place development on Manhattan's West Side, saying he wanted to be near the mogul's base of operations. Trump said he was not affected by the opinions of his top executives, most of whom favored Perdew. "I really go with my gut," he told reporters. "But I couldn't have lost with either one. It was a very tough choice."
Elvis Estate goes for $100 million
Lisa Marie Presley has found a partner to buy part of her father's massive estate. In a deal worth $100 million, impresario Robert F.X. Sillerman, who founded and later sold radio operator SFX Broadcasting and concert promoter SFX Entertainment, said Thursday he agreed to buy 85 percent of Presley's estate, including rights to the singer's name and the management of his famed Graceland mansion, Reuters reports. The title to Graceland and its surrounding property, including most of Presley's personal effects, will remain with Lisa Marie. Lisa Marie said she had sought a partner for several years to help expand Elvis Presley Enterprises and hoped the deal would preserve her father's legacy.
Queen to go on tour with new singer
British rock band Queen will go on a 2005 tour for the first time in 18 years, with vocalist Paul Rodgers taking the place of the late Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991, along with original members guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, Reuters reports. It is unclear whether bass guitarist John Deacon will join the tour. Many Queen devotees are insisting that filling Mercury's often outrageous platform shoes is impossible. "It's a Queen tour with Paul Rodgers, and planned for the spring, although no dates have yet been confirmed," said band agent Phil Symes. "It's not a case of Paul joining the band. The band would say that Freddie is irreplaceable, but Brian felt there was a chemistry with Paul."
Motley Crue's Neil involved in altercation
Motley Crue singer Vince Neil is accused of knocking out an employee of a Dallas, Tex., nightclub after a disagreement over sound levels during a Oct. 30 concert, the AP reports. According to a police report attached to the arrest warrant for misdemeanor assault, the singer motioned for more guitar volume but bolted across the stage as soundman Michael Talbert adjusted it. The affidavit said Neil jumped onto the soundboard, kicked at Talbert, then punched him in the face, the AP reports. Dallas police and prosecutors said if Neil doesn't contact them about the warrant, they probably will wait to act on it when he returns to the area.
Hugh Grant to hand out book awards
Organizers of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award have asked Hugh Grant to be on the panel of judges that will award their 2004 prizes, the AP reports. The annual Whitbread Book Awards were established in 1971 and are Britain's longest-running literary competition. They are open to residents of Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Winners in each of five categories--novel, first novel, biography, poetry and children's book--will be announced Jan. 6.